Stretching a point – Unai discovers the limits of his squad?

November 15, 2018

It really does feel to me as if the XG chickens have come home to roost. Or at least it does until I realise that the meaning of that statement is in the mind of the writer and as such open to interpretation by everyone who reads it.

The image that this conjures in my mind is one of Emery’s team resembling an elastic band. It has been exciting watching Emery stretch it as far as it can go and I happily admit that I think he has been able to stretch it further than I expected but it is now contracting back to its original shape.In other words, I believe we have seen the collective best of the squad that Emery has at his disposal and I don’t believe that he is able to make it any better than he has.

In fact with the amount of games that we have got coming up and the continually diminishing squad due to injuries, I only see us going backwards.

A bit gloomy I know, but this is what I would describe as the reality of our situation, or ‘our lot’ if you like. There are bright spots, it could be argued that the elastic band started contracting when we lost the extremely important Nacho Monreal and his return could put us back on our expanding trajectory.

I expect Torreira to start scoring goals. When Wolves reverted to parking the bus, Emery brought on Guendouzi and pushed Torreira forward, I thought this was a clever move as I think that the Uruguayan is probably only just behind Ozil in his ability to operate in the tight space that parking the bus ensures. What I am saying is that Torreira being quick and super accurate should start getting him on the score sheet sooner rather than later.

I really like the way that Emery is able to keep players feeling part of the squad but at the same time generating competition for places. Look at how enthused and determined Ramsey and Mkhitaryan looked when they took to the field on Sunday. Emery was also able to do this with Welbeck, of course, before his unfortunate early departure.

But pointing to Ramsey’s and Mkhitaryan’s facial expressions is, in many ways, clutching at straws. The reality is the reality. Is Iwobi likely to improve further this season, well I hope so but I seriously doubt it. Is Holding going to improve this season; again I hope so but I doubt it. Both have enjoyed meteoric rises under the stewardship of Emery but Holding is not going to start to be able to run any faster than he can already and Iwobi just can’t resist a blind alley.

Emery has had a good, hard look now and must have a pretty solid idea of what he needs. I doubt that he will be able to get everything on his wish list in one go but I do expect a new arrival or two in January and, with that, I expect Emery’s elastic band to start to stretch once again.

Written with a tooth ache so if it is a bit miserable, blame the weakness of the drugs.

LB

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Arsenal’s Interlull – Who’s involved and when?

November 13, 2018

It’s getting more difficult to find words to describe how horrendously tedious these regular international breaks actually are.

There will be 9 games for Arsenal in December – just imagine how much easier December could be if we dropped two of the international breaks, enabling fixtures to be more evenly spread. Injuries will inevitably mount as fatigue sets in. Clubs with the biggest squads and those teams which contain less international players will benefit.

Pros for the November break

Aside from Mesut still giving Die Mannschaft the finger, Terrier won’t have to travel halfway around the world this time around as he’s playing at the home of North London’s finest Club on Friday and then in Paris.

Cons (not A.M-N)

Two manc players have withdrawn from the French squad, so Laca has been called up.

Micki is playing away with Armenia, which means less travelling as the games are in Gibraltar and Liechtenstein

There are another 256 cons but I can’t be bothered to list them.

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Mikhi – Armenia

Friday 16th Nov Gibraltar (A) Uefa Nations League (UNL)

Monday 19th Nov Liechtenstein (A) UNL

 

Auba – Gabon

Saturday 17th Nov Mali (H) AFCON

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Terrier – Uruguay

Friday 16th Nov Brazil (Emirates Stadium) Friendly

Tuesday 20th Nov France (A) Friendly

 

Granit – Switzerland

Wednesday 14th Nov – Qatar (H) Friendly attempting to pretend Qatar are part of football

Sunday 18th Nov Belgium (H) UNL

 

Wobbly – Nigeria

Saturday 17th Nov South Africa (A) AFCON

Tuesday 20 Nov Uganda (H) Friendly

 

Big Sok – Greece

Thursday 15th Nov – Finland (H) UNL

Sunday 18th Nov – Estonia (H) UNL

Rambo – Wales

Friday 16th Nov – Denmark (H) UNL

Tuesday 20th Nov – Albania (A) Friendly

 

Mo Elneny

Friday 16th Nov – Tunisia (H) AFCON

Tuesday 20th Nov – United Arab Emirates (A) Friendly

 

Bernd Leno

Thursday 15th Nov – Russia (H) Friendly

Monday 19th Nov – Netherlands (H) UNL

Getty Images

Bournemouth away will be our first fixture when we get back to proper football on November 25th, hopefully with no more casualties.

Apologies for any inaccuracies/omissions.

chas


Poll – Mesut or Miki – You Decide

October 9, 2018

Ahead for Gunners is a very long International break, so here’s an easy conversation starter.

I’m offering one formation and one positional player option.

It’s a 4-2-3-1 and today the option is Mesut or Mkhi. Obviously you vote for one, but can then elaborate in comments i.e. Mesut only starts when the sun shines and it’s a Full Moon……………

POLL – Mesut or Mkhi – You decide?

mickydidit89


Let’s get stuck into the Toffees

September 23, 2018

First off a tribute to Everton’s Dixie Dean the holder of the all time English top flight scoring record.

Dixie Dean’s Record 60 League Goals in 1927/28

When George Camsell scored 59 Football League goals for Middlesbrough in 1926/27 he must have believed that his record would last for years. It lasted just one season being bettered by William Ralph Dean – Dixie Dean. Not that it was easy, with two matches remaining he needed seven goals to beat the record. Four of them came against Burnley in the penultimate match and on Saturday 5th May 1927, 48,715 Everton fans were at Goodison to welcome the newly-crowned League champions and to see Dean get a hat-trick to take the record from Camsell. Arsenal opened the scoring after two minutes – Dean equalised a minute later. In the 6th minute Dean was fouled in the box and converted the penalty. The record equalled and plenty of time to beat it but it wasn’t until 8 minutes from the end when Alec Troup sent in a corner for Dean to head home the record-breaking 60th goal. (It should be noted that this was achieved in a 42 game season)

Dixie Dean remained at Goodison until the 1937/38 season having scored an amazing 349 goals in 399 League appearances. He died on 1st March 1980 at Goodison while attending Everton’s match against Liverpool.

Here are some more memorable moments in our games against Everton.

Everton 2-1 Arsenal – 19th October 2002

Rooney’s first league goal was certainly one to remember. The spectacular long-range strike ended Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten run in the league and confirmed the 16-year-old was one for the future.

Arsenal 4-0 Everton – 3rd May 1998

The Gunners picked up their first Premier League trophy after demolishing Everton with two games to spare. A Slaven Bilic own goal got the ball rolling for Arsenal, and after a Marc Overmars double, captain Adams smashed home the fourth in emphatic style. The game and league title was already secured when Adams raced forward in the 89th minute, but it was a seminal moment for the club captain in front of the Highbury faithful.

Arsenal 1-2 Everton – 20th Jan 1996

Everton’s first and only Premier League win at Arsenal came more than 22 years ago. Ian Wright had set the Gunners on their way to victory, but Graham Stuart levelled matters before Andrei Kanchelskis netted an 83rd-minute winner.

Arsenal 7-0 Everton – 11th May 2005

Dennis Bergkamp put on a magical display as the Gunners demolished Everton. The Dutchman assisted the first two for Robert Pires and Robin van Persie, while he got on the scoresheet himself with Arsenal’s sixth. It remains their biggest Premier League victory to date, having matched that scoreline one year later against Middlesbrough.

Arsenal 1-0 Everton – 10th December 2011

Van Persie is no stranger to scoring spectacular volleys. Efforts against Charlton Athletic, Liverpool and Aston Villa (the latter for Man Utd) come to mind, while this first-time strike against the Toffees sealed all three points for the Gunners following Alex Song’s delightful ball over the top.

Arsenal 4-1 – 21st April 2001

One of the more bizarre moments in the Premier League’s history occurred when an angry Everton fan ran onto the Highbury pitch and offered his shirt in exchange for Alex Nyarko’s royal blue jersey. Nyarko asked to be substituted immediately and went on to quit football, though the midfielder reversed his decision a few days later and joined Monaco on loan.

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Everton are one of only 6 clubs who have remained in the Premier League since its inception in 1992/93 – the others being Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham.

After losing our opening 2 games of the season we have now won 4 on the trot, 3 EPL and 1 Europa League. Overall we scored an average of 2.33 goals per game, however our defence still leaves a lot to be desired as we have not kept a clean sheet this season and our goals against average is a poor 1.83.

Our EPL home record against Everton is very positive; in fact (without checking) it may be our best against any EPL club. Only staunch Everton supporters would put money on Arsenal getting anything other than 3 points on Sunday.

Team News

It would appear that Lucas Torreira and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both doubts for the match.

Possible team

Written by GunnerN5


4-3-3 …. Who plays in the front three?

August 31, 2018

Having sorted out our right flank issues on Tuesday plus deciding who should partner Lucas Torreira on Wednesday, it’s time to shift our attention to the business end of the team and the front three.

When you’re taking half chances and scoring at crucial moments in a game, victories look easy. If the boys at the sharp end are misfiring, as against the chavs 2 weeks ago, it doesn’t matter how many golden opportunities are created, you’ll always struggle.

Unai Emery is still moulding the Arsenal players into new shapes but he does seem to favour 4-3-3 (or 4-2-1-3). The front three are a little undefined as yet. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – yet to break his duck early on this season after scoring for fun during Arsenal’s tepid second half of last season. Has a career average of about a goal every other game and was prolific for Dortmund. Our most versatile out and out striker which is probably why he gets pushed out to the left flank to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette.

courtesy GK Edits

Alexandre Lacazette – only slightly lower strike rate across his career than Auba, scoring at just under a goal in every two. Perhaps our most natural finisher. He doesn’t seem to score many tap-ins for Arsenal which either says something about the type of chances created by his teammates or about his natural positioning as a striker. Seems to enjoy bouncing off Auba, though maybe the pair are better suited to playing together in a 4-4-2?

Danny Welbeck – Danny appears to be 3rd in the pecking order of strikers, though his physicality could make him an enticing prospect as a powerful left sided attacker. Gets into great scoring positions but often seems to lack that killer instinct in front of the posts. It would appear that when everyone else is fit, he is destined to be our best hope of a goal from the bench, Lord Bendtner style.

Alex Iwobi – a starter against the chavs and hammers, Alex is the go-to player for left side wing duties when Auba is chosen at centre forward. This is probably due to his natural ability to take players on. Bit of a marmite player with some choosing to dismiss him outright.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – His high work rate and creativity up front seem to have made him one of the first names on Emery’s teamsheet. Expecting him to be constantly helping wingfender Bellerin with defensive duties is too much of an ask. I keep expecting his goals and assists figures to explode once the manager settles on a final plan of attack. Could he play as the tip of a midfield triangle?

Mesut Özil – Mesut doesn’t appear to have found a conclusive position in Unai’s team structure as yet. He seems the man most likely to create a goal-scoring chance with just one pass that we possess. Does he play left side in a front three or the furthest forward of the middle three? Answers on a postcard. I’d imagine he’s hankering for Arsene to appear and to tell him, ‘just play where you like while you dismantle the opposition’.

Aaron Ramsey – the Welsh Messi would also love the free role in any set up. He’s been used as part of a double pivot, as a box-to-boxer, as a number 10 and a right flanker up front. Like Mesut he’s another who doesn’t naturally fit into any particular slot in Unai Emery’s team structure wall chart. Reading LB’s Cardiff match report from November 2013 yesterday reminded us that Aaron has goals in him. Wouldn’t it be great if he could hit double figures again?

Of the other three who had fine pre-seasons, Reiss Nelson would appear to be off to Hoffenheim this week (hopefully just on loan) and Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah haven’t made the bench in our first three games.

Similarly to choosing a midfield partner for Lucas Torriera, there will always be an element of mix and match when selecting a front 3 depending on the opposition and if we’re home or away.

On paper an Auba, Laca and Micki combination looks to have the most goals in it. Alexandre hasn’t been chosen to start a 90 minutes up to now and if he was chosen, would it mean Auba moving out to the left wing? Choosing a front three might be based on other factors in addition to goals such as team balance, the fabled high press and workrate. It’ll be interesting to see if Mesut can find a natural slot in the new manager’s plans, perhaps starting on that left side but then dropping into more of a number 10 role at times.

It was only a few weeks ago in pre-season that we were talking about an embarrassment of riches up front but we know it will take time for the new boss to find the right blend.

I’m really looking forward to everything clicking into place soon and for the goals to start raining in – as, I’m sure, are we all.

Thoughts? Who  would you have in our front three?

chas

 


The Catalyst that Sparks the Revolution?

July 30, 2018

LB wonders what it is that’s different in the air. My observations, amateurish though they be, can be summarised in three words. Pierre. Emerick. Aubameyang.

He never EVER stops smiling. And if you look at training vids/photos, publicity moments like the new kit launch, or even match time, Mesut seems to have taken a real shine to him.

I think he’s going to turn out to be a phenomenal signing, not just for his goals, and general play, but for his esprit de corps (a while back I posited a theory about Wenger’s handover: well here’s another one – the arrival of Mkhitaryan, PEA and Sokratis, all from BD, almost at once is no coincidence). And I agree furthermore with FGG. Bring on the Golden Boot!

Will the Sanchez/Mkhitaryan player swap plus subsequent signing of Auba turn out to be one of the most significant pieces of transfer business ever done by the Club?  Only time will tell but let’s pray to Dennis it is! (ed)

Taken from a comment by Maxwell


An Embarrassment of Riches?

July 19, 2018

Apparently an Arsenal X1 beat Crawley Town 9-0 yesterday in a behind closed doors game at Colney.

Bernd Leno made a first appearance between the sticks and plenty of other first teamers dusted off their boots to grab some playing time.

Lucas Perez and Laca bagged a brace each and Auba also got on the scoresheet.

                                                Courtesy AFC

Along with goals from Eddie, The Jeff, Reiss Nelson and Micki, it’s starting to look as though we have a very strong group of mobile attacking players to begin this season. 🙂